Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #2

Supergirl and Ruthye are on a space coach. Where are they goin’, I don’t know. When will they get there, I ain’t certain. All I know is they are on their way.

But wait, where’s Krypto the Superdog? At the end of last issue, a drunken foray to a red sun world had climaxed with Kara and her loyal pal pierced with arrows, apparently dying. But here’s Kara and Ruthye in a homage to Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, with no dog and no mention of the dog.

After five pages of Ruthye’s Big Bus Adventure, Supergirl wakes and, at a rest stop, is challenged by someone with a grudge against her cousin.

Later, the driver of the coach asks for Supergirl’s help against a metal-eating dragon rounding on his vehicle. Powerless, she comes up with a Hail Mary.

It turns out that ‘reds’ are red kryptonite capsules, which give most folk mild visions, but have the usual unpredictable effect on Kryptonians. Luckily, in this case, Supergirl gets a handy power boosts that allows her to rout the space beastie.

‘Now wash your hands.’

The quiet moment in the aftermath of Kara’s save gives Ruthye, who wants nothing more than to avenge her father’s death at the hands of a passing robber, a chance to ask her new friend a question.

After an uncomfortable encounter between Ruthye and a bus passenger hints that Kara is getting her super powers back, we finally learn what happened after Supergirl and Superdog were shot.

(I’ve always thought trigger warnings were a bit extreme, but, trigger warning for anyone who has ever loved a pet – I’m a jaded old comic book reader and this next sequence made me nauseous.)

The ending is ambiguous, with mention of a possible cure for Krypto. But by the close of this issue’s main sequence, many weeks have passed – even if Krypto wasn’t put to sleep before Kara and Ruthye left, is he really going to manage to hang on, on a backwater planet like that? Short of Kara having a mini-Phantom Zone projector to put Krypto in stasis, things are looking very dark indeed.

It really does seem like Krypto has been ‘fridged’- sacrificed to give Supergirl the impetus to join Ruthye’s blood quest.

Ah yes, Ruthye, the True Grit knock-off whom writer Tom King proclaimed would be ‘your newest favourite DC character’. Here she is this issue, narrating.

It’s too late, kid. I’m already sick of your wittering. I commend King’s skill in creating a character with a distinctive voice, but her mannered. vocabulary and cadence are truly tiresome. Maybe if we weren’t spending quite so much time with her I’d not want to gag Ruthye, but for crying out loud, whose name is that in the title? This is meant to be Supergirl’s story, but so far it isn’t. It’s the story of how Kara fits into Ruthye’s quest for vengeance.

Yes, having a new character make us look at a familiar face afresh is an established, and valid, device, but it feels as if King isn’t really interested in the Maid of Might. And I’m not sure I want the Supergirl that Ruthye sees – look at the cruel way she swears at the passengers as she attempts to secure reds. The glib comment at the nervous alien who has some. This isn’t your parents’ Supergirl… but why not? If Tom King wants to write a hard-as-nails character, create her! Don’t mischaracterise Supergirl.

Look again at that line after Ruthye asks Supergirl if she tried to avenge the death of her family’s killers: ‘In her response I heard a whole life of regret.’ Either Ruthye is emotionally tone deaf, or King is rewriting the core of Kara’s character. I fear the latter.

And that’s a damn shame, because he doesn’t get her entirely wrong. I never thought a page devoted to hand washing could be valid, but hey, we’re living through Covid, and rather than teach Ruthye to sing Happy Birthday, a very gentle Kara shares something of her background. The sweetness belies Ruthye’s observation that Kara ‘was never soft’, giving me a little hope that she’s being set up as an unreliable narrator, if not in the main story beats, certainly in her reading of Kara. For example, when Kara asks for Ruthye’s sword it could be because her immediate response to Krypto’s plight has her understanding the girl’s state of mind, and she wants to protect Ruthye from herself; Kara knows she won’t give in to the sword.

Kara’s unflappability is appreciated, the reds plan is smart and makes for a terrific visual callback to the Peter David Supergirl run, with Kara looking like the Earth Angel of the Nineties.

And Kara’s mental and physical strength in getting help for herself, Ruthye and Krypto is really impressive… you’d think our ‘newest favourite DC character’ might at least try to be of use, but she just hangs around the book being entitled.

And what’s with the jerk at the space cafe wanting to hurt Kara to get revenge on her cousin? Has she no rep of her own in this tale?

The Krypto scene really did turn my stomach, a combination of decent writing by King and the primal feeling most of us have for a pet. If Krypto is dead – as he is in that Future State Superwoman book that delights me so – he’s not going to stay dead. Meanwhile, though, I’ve had my heart broken, seeing him silently whimpering as he waits to be put to sleep.

Hey kids, comics!

The art, once more, is stunning. According to an interview King asked Bilquis Evely what she liked to draw, and he tailored his script for space Western landscapes and weird people, so it’s no surprise she‘s giving us such great pages. The bus passengers are a clever mix of banal and terrifying, the space dragon is magnificent and the emotions are writ large on the faces of Ruthye and her sidekick. Kara looks like a Forties screen goddess, and her temporary cosmic mode is thrilling. Ruthye looks like a refugee from a Flash Gordon serial, and is adorable in her space parka.

And the colouring of Matheus Lopes is, at times, extraordinary, from the blushed facial tones of Kara to the blends and graduations of the splash page Kara shares with the dragon.

The choices of fonts by letterer Clayton Cowles are very smart – storybook for Ruthye, straightforward for Supergirl, menacing for the ‘bothersome’ passenger.

The cover by Evely and Lopes is delightful, making the final turn the book takes even more shocking. That’s two issues with a very similar background tone, though; I hope Lopes varies things from here on – that green isn’t attractive.

As with last issue, the craftsmanship put into this comic is inarguably at a high level – it’s the story choices that make me sure it’s not a good Supergirl comic. I should drop it, but until I know Krypto is definitely dead, I’m hanging on to hope.

19 thoughts on “Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #2

  1. If you come up with a plot and have a third party tell you which character to use, of course you’re going to mischaracterize said character. The worst offense I’ve read was his Booster Gold in Batman where the guardian of time changed Batman’s past on a lark and basically lost half his intelligence.

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  2. That writing of Kara not getting vengeance and regretting it jarred horribly. From who? Is that a reference to Black Zero destroying Krypton or something about Argo I missed?
    Sure explaining the mixed emotions of surviving disasters of that scope then getting sent to Earth for a purpose that turns out unnecessary is complex & King wanted to write about space-bathrooms but the disconnect is too much.

    Not to mention the leisurely public transport tour to find a yellow sun while Krypto’s in trouble. Couldn’t she have space-telegraphed friends for a ride or something? All these things have taken me well of the story before it’s barely started which doesn’t bode well for bothering with another 6 issues of this.

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    1. It likely won’t be a reference to anything, given how spotty King’s understanding of Supergirl is. The most recent destroyer of Krypton is Rogol Zaar courtesy of Brian Bendis – Kara got to bash him a fair bit!

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  3. The fate of Krypto is yet another example of King failing to understand Alan Moore. When Krypto sacrifices himself in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” the moment feels earned, and much like the rest of that story, the real emotions evoked are contrasted with the ridiculousness of the Weisinger era that Alan Moore shows such obvious affection for. Childhood comic books are transformed into Wagnerian operatics. There is none of that here and, as you said, it feels like an easy sacrifice to make the reader sympathise more with Ruthie. Which is incredibly difficult considering just a few pages before Ruthie is shown to be so self-centred that during the glory of Supergirl becoming an Angel to fight a space dragon, all she could talk about was herself and her memories of her father.

    The hand washing scene was wonderful, though, and worked because it totally lacked the irony that stultifies the rest of the issue, and indeed, much of King’s writing in general.

    Like yourself, I still live in hope that one day we’ll have a decent Supergirl that reads true to her character and not continually warped by creators and editors who believe that adolescence can only be expressed through angst.

    Lovely art though.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Carey, the comparison with WHTTMOT? hadn’t occurred to me. You’re dead on.

      Please God this series doesn’t wind up with Kara stepping into the drab Future State outfit, calling herself Superwoman and using the sword to dub Ruthye the new Supergirl!

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  4. While Tom King’s writing might be more precious than we would expect from a Supergirl book, in my own experience, Supergirl; with the glorious exception of Mariko Tamaka & Joelle Jones’ Supergirl: Being Super; has rarely suffered from good writing or from distinctive visuals.
    Bilquis Evely’s three splash pages concerning the space dragon might be the best blending of the fantastical and the heroic which Supergirl has ever enjoyed.
    This is Mike Kaluta and Jeffrey Jones fantasy territory. The alien transportation scenes are worthy of Mike Mignola. Evely is building a completely credible environment, giving gauche lifeforms a seeping nostril on the midnight train to Andmurph.
    Results this strong merit giving these creators some serious elbow room.
    Other than PAD, no creator has produced a definitive Supergirl project. There have been strong moments, but the entire World Of Krypton event from 2008-09 severely compromised whatever momentum Supergirl had gained post Crisis On Infinite Earths.
    I am choosing to experience this Supergirl project as King & Evely are giving us something similar to Yojimbo (1961) by Akira Kurosawa. Supergirl as a masterless samurai entering a lawless territory while protecting a defenseless child.
    Or Ruthye as the young John Conner from Terminator 2 (1991): an innocent accompanied by a mighty warrior in a world she never made, “Come with me for I seek revenge”.
    Kicking a stool out from under a would-be assassin, taking a hallucinogenic drug in front of an impressionable adolescent and elbowing an alien on the space subway are not behaviors we have come to expect from Supergirl. It goes against the grain.
    But it is intriguing and it is spectacularly presented. Evely’s gorgeous pages alone make this issue worth the price of admission 😀

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    1. Aw Brad, Brad, you didn’t enjoy the Gates or Kupperberg runs? I loved the writing there. Looking back at my review if Being Super #1 I thought it was well done in a YA way, but a bit slow, with not enough ‘super’ stuff in 50pp of story. I thought it’d be back for #2 but worried about the bi-monthly schedule. I never did go back.

      Samurai films aren’t my thing, I bought Ronin mind, and saw a film called Sansho Dayu, that was great. Hang on, it wasn’t a samurai film! Good stuff, though!

      Nice comparisons re: the space scenes here, that’s great company for Evely- if the space dragon’s head had been more distinct in that first splash it would have been perfect.

      It’s funny, I never thought of those reds as drugs, even though they were clearly labelled as drugs! I’m too used to the Superman Family popping magic pills all through the Silver Age!

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      1. I forgot to finish my thought! The thing is, I don’t want to see Supergirl reflected through the tropes of another genre – she’s been created for a particular one and should be allowed to bloom there. Sure, give us a Supergirl story in which she meets a ghost, or a wacky Ambush Bug tale, but Kara should be the star, not the novelty factor.

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  5. Martin, I think we are having honest differences about what should be done about Supergirl going forward.
    Supergirl was created in 1959 by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, right after they created Legion of Super Heroes: it was natural that these two features dovetailed into each other.
    Supergirl is the Sarah Conner (Terminator) of DC: seamlessly heroic both in the present and in the future. Gates and Kupperberg did not capture her singular range as a character, IMHO.
    Supergirl is not strictly limited by genre like most characters. If Wolverine can be a samurai, why not Supergirl? Supergirl is capable of multitudes.
    Just as Brainiac 5 makes himself useful in the present while being indispensable in the future, Supergirl has the mental toughness to be heroic in both the present and the future.
    Supergirl can be heroic in any genre. Supergirl is not a girl, while not yet a woman. Supergirl should fly and be freed from any preconceived notions.
    It’s not like Kara has dishonored her uniform, yet 😀

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    1. It IS interesting isn’t it? I reckon Kupperberg and Gates delivered pretty near perfect Supergirl by presenting her as the familiar, good, resourceful, caring Kryptonian, where’s you seem to reckon that’s limiting and like her also off-her-head drunk, swearing and crushing alien heads… Getting drunk and swearing doesn’t make someone bad, but after 60+ years (thanks for the anniversary book, DC… not!) of Kara not being Lobo, this really jars. It’s not a richer Supergirl, it’s just not Supergirl.

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  6. Great review and as always we have similar thoughts.
    For me this is primarily a Ruthye story, Supergirl a supporting character in her own book.
    Second, this casually cursing, sadistic, angry Supergirl is against the grain. In my review I said this could very very easily be a Starfire story, or a Power Girl story. It makes sense for them.

    As for her being sad about her loss and not avenging her past, we have seen her do that in every iteration of this character. It’s just that those writers had her come through it stronger, She is upbeat and optimistic and fierce in her defense of the helpless. She wants to save others, not wallow in her own sadness.

    Yes, the art is great. Yes, the flame wings are a nice nod. Yes, the handwashing scene is very nice, the closest to my idea of Supergirl in this series. But the rest … it doesn’t read like her.

    Making her cruel and crass doesn’t make her ‘fun’, ‘awesome’, and ‘bad ass’ … all words King has used in describing her in this work. It just makes her cruel and crass. But I shouldn’t be surprised. He made Wally a deranged killer.

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    1. You’re so right. This story could feature any number of DC characters more convincingly. Heck, Lobo’s daughter Crush is more compassionate than this ‘Supergirl’.

      If Tom King really thinks this is going to become a seminal, much-loved Supergirl volume he’s going to be sorely disappointed.

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  7. Do you remember when many were rolling their eyes when Steve Orlando started his first arc for Supergirl by including Zor-El?

    I miss those days.

    This Kara has no respect for life… DC obviously doesn’t care for Supergirl, and now, sadly, neither do I. But I hold onto hope, too, a slim one, that somehow Kara’s real actions do not tally with the narrating character’s depiction of events… but, frankly, there aren’t clues to indicate this is the case (though I guess it is still early in the story).
    I stopped watching The Walking Dead because I was sick and tired of my anxiety rising every time a new episode aired, likewise, my anxiety was high for this issue and it will continue to rise as each new issue of this comic book excretion is due. 😦

    I despair.

    Thanks, Martin for the platform… And great review!

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    1. Ah yes, the Orlando days. I think it was the Brian Ching art that didn’t work for me more than the script, although the Zoe-El stuff was terrible. You likely know, Aaron, that King says chats with Orlando informed the way he’s playing Kara. Thanks Steve.

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      1. I read, last week I think, somewhere, that Tom King said he called Steve Orlando and it was Steve who informed him how Supergirl’s origin is different from Superman’s. Which, alarmed me really, but I guess not every DC writer is expected to know every DC character’s origin.. But from learning how Supergirl’s origin is different from that of Superman’s, and from there taking Kara in this murderous and hostile direction is, I think, a rather huge and ugly leap. Tom King went onto say (if I remember) that he could’ve written the “ideal” stuff from Kara, but because of her origin he decided instead to play around with her anger she’s feeling about seeing her world destroyed. He said he likened her to a holocaust survivor and as such having much hidden pain and hostility. Hardly an optimistic take, especially when Supergirl is a comic book superhero. But we’ll see. Just my opinion of course.

        And I agree with you about the art from Steve’s first arc of Supergirl..

        We cling to hope… Which, I guess, is our own homage to the classic Kara we know and love. 🙂

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  8. Ruthye’s verbose narration and dialog is insufferable. It reminds me of when my own writing can get overstuffed with a not inconsiderable number of boring asides which, were they not evidence of a sensibility not totally lacking in discernment, world be poorly and, if not universally, then at least partially and to an extent not entirely unprecedented, despised.

    The problem here is it’s intensely boring to read. King could have written her in a different voice – any other voice! This is just a slog.

    So much has been written about this story that I don’t want to repeat it all.

    Let me just mention, this observation of Ruthye’s that she sees a lifetime of regret on Supergirl’s face – um, what lifetime? She’s celebrating turning 21 now – how old was she upon arrival? Doesn’t matter – this is comic book time, and as far as I’m concerned, she’s only been on earth and out of stasis since her New 52 in-story arrival a few years ago – certainly not the 10 years since her comic debuted. She wasn’t 11! I don’t think she’s lived even these few years in regret. And maybe she wouldn’t think so either – it’s just Ruthye’s annoying narration, after all.

    To me, the Earth Angel thing felt like fan service. But maybe there’s a message in there – maybe King knows this isn’t literally “our” Supergirl, just like how John Byrne invented a different one who looked exactly like Kara Zor-El but was just a very naive clump of goop.

    I also don’t like the coloring, and didn’t like the first issue’s colors either. I agree “green isn’t attractive,” but maybe since King is writing about a girl who grew up in filth, he asked for the book to look like it was dipped in mud.

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    1. (Apologies for the delayed reply, I’ve been away for the weekend.)

      I’m exceedingly indented for the veracity of your response to my amateur, but indisputably earnest, ramblings. Were I to dig deep within the depths of my sensibilities I would assuredly express my admiration for…

      … oh, I can’t keep this up. I give King credit for getting his Ruthye on, but I wish he wouldn’t. Well done you!

      Great points about R’s interpretation of Kara’s expression – probably she’s emotion blind, being so wrapped up in herself.

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